VATICAN CITY, SEP 29, 1998 (VIS) - At midday today, the Pope received five patriarchs from the Eastern Catholic Churches: Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon; Antioch of the Greek Melkites, Syria; Cilicia of the Armenians, Lebanon; Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt, and Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq.
The Holy Father told the patriarchs that their presence "is the living testimony of communion founded on the Word of God and obedience to it on the part of the Church."
John Paul II then spoke of the reestablishment of full communion with Orthodox churches. "Though aware of the divisions created over the centuries and notwithstanding the lack of full communion between the Catholic Church and Orthodox churches, the (Second Vatican) Council ... declared that Eastern Churches 'have the power to govern themselves according to their own disciplines'."
"Is this not valid now for your churches, which are already in full communion with the Bishop of Rome? Should not the rights and duties of the patriarchs, who are their fathers and leaders, not also be reaffirmed?" asked the Holy Father. "Eastern Catholic Churches offer in their own lands and in the diaspora, their liturgical, spiritual, theological and specific canonical wealth."
John Paul II reminded the patriarchs that they are "especially aware" of the difficulty for most other Christians constituted by the "petrine ministry of unity." He recalled that in the Encyclical Letter "Ut Unum Sint," he invited the other churches to "establish ... fraternal and patient dialogue on the means of exercising this ministry of unity. This invitation is addressed with even greater insistence and affection for you. ... It is above all up to you to search, together with us, for the most suitable ways so that this ministry might operate a service of charity recognized by all. I would ask you to lend this help to the Pope."
Thus, he added, "I hope that your Churches fully associate with ecumenical dialogue on charity and doctrine, both locally and universally."
"Your collaboration with the Pope and among yourselves,"
he concluded "will be able to show the Orthodox churches that the tradition
of 'synergy' between Rome and the patriarchs has been upheld - even if
limited and wounded - and maybe even developed for the good of the one
Church of God,
spread throughout the earth."
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